God Hates Visionary Dreaming

I recently read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I loved it. It has profound insight on almost every page (and paragraph!).

Consider this quote, where I wrote, “Hmm…” in the margin, which means, “I’m not so sure about this point, and I need to come back later to think about it some more.” (Click here for a post on how I mark my books while reading):

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself (27-28).

Now, at first glance, we, as 21st-century, “Go take the world by storm for Jesus” Christians wave our hand and say, “Silly little guy.”

I’m not saying I agree with him, but I think he at least needs to be heard in our possibly-neo-triumphalistic, “Vision-casting-and-catching’, Dream-big-for-God, Take-the-city-for-Jesus evangelical culture.

Our Savior’s triumph was a crucified triumph, a vision of death-before-life, a big God who made himself a small man, who was killed by his city outside its walls.

Maybe Bonhoeffer overstates himself. And maybe that’s just what we need to hear right here and right now.

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About Danny Slavich

I am a Christian husband, father, pastor, and poet. I lead Pembroke Road Baptist Church a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in urban South Florida.
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4 Responses to God Hates Visionary Dreaming

  1. Michele Harvey says:

    I think Bonhoeffer is correct. I am not sure how it relates to the Evangelical community, but I have seen this in members of a liturgical church. It is destructive, to say the least. No one can stand up to the scrutiny and the demands for perfection that seem to grow out of this idealization of the community. It leads to thinking that says there is only one, narrow expression of faith and worship that is correct, and brings about condemnation of others who vary from the correct form. I’m not talking about the average person in a liturgical church community, but some who are very serious about their faith and who believe they are honoring God in the only acceptable way.

  2. Tato says:

    It all rests on what the center of that dream is. Bonhoeffer talked about how this visionary dreamer tries to bind men together as if he is the creator of true community. If our dream matches God’s heart and the mission he has called his disciples to then I don’t see how visionary dreaming is bad. The vision just has to be God’s and not ours.

    Life Together is a great book. It really convicts me when I don’t feel like worshiping corporately. There is a section in there on how there are people around the world who would love to do what we take for granted but cannot worship together because of prison or persecution. Really convicting.

  3. Danny Slavich says:

    @Michele Thanks for the insight on/application to the liturgical church!

    @Tato I agree with you. But I also think that the dangers of pride and accusation that Bonhoeffer mentions are just as likely to pop up even in someone who has a dream that “matches God’s heart”. Like I said, I don’t necessarily agree with Bonhoeffer categorically, but I do think it’s something worth thinking about.

  4. nathanwells says:

    @Tato I agree with you, “The vision just has to be God’s and not ours.” We are not the vision caster – God has given us the vision, the “pattern” we are to follow for Christian community, we didn’t “dream” it up.

    Thanks for posting Danny – I haven’t read anything by Bonhoeffer for a while, and now I want to pick this up. He always makes me think, and brings my thoughts closer to my loving Savior.

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